People are hurting everywhere. In reality, we are all suffering through something. Life can tragically hit us in the face with more problems than we can handle. I know it has hit me pretty hard at times.
In our Men’s Bible Study on Wednesdays we are studying the life of Job. He lost everything but his integrity. He had no answers but plenty of questions. Is that how you feel?
Job had some horrible friends who tried to help him. However, they made things worse. When you face troubles you really find out who your real friends are. It seems friends either leave you or want to give you some kind of advise. But that’s not the kind of “comfort” we need.
Did you know that Paul says more about comfort than any other writer in the Bible, and he says more about it in 2 Corinthians than any other letter he wrote, and more in the first chapter than anywhere else in this epistle. The word “comfort” occurs no less than 10 times in its noun and verb forms in 1 Corinthians 1:1-11 – 1/3 of all occurrences in the New Testament.
If you are suffering or know a friend who is suffering, this passage will be a tremendous comfort and help. You will discover what real comfort is and where you can receive lasting comfort. I hope you will allow God to bring comfort. He is “the God of all comfort.”
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction…” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4a)
We must not think of comfort in terms of sympathy. God does not pat us on the head and give us a piece of candy or a toy to distract our attention from our troubles. But He puts strength into our hearts so we can face our trials and triumph over them. Our English word “comfort” comes from Latin and means “with strength.” The Greek word (paraklesis) means to come alongside and strengthen. It is the word that Jesus called the Holy Spirit – The Comforter (John 14:26). A good word is encourage. It doesn’t mean that God rescues us from any discomfort, but He gives us strength to endure.
He is the God of “all” comfort and comforts us in “all” our tribulations. The passage tells us two things: (1) There is no true, enduring comfort apart from God. All other comfort is temporary. (2) There is no trouble than God cannot give comfort – not in some but in all. God’s comfort is the comfort which brings courage and enables us to cope with all that life can do to us.
The reason Paul could and did talk about comfort so much is because he experienced suffering so much. In fact, he talked more about suffering than any other apostle and more in 2 Corinthians than any other letter. It is as if comfort and suffering go hand in hand. You can find the same comfort Paul found.
“For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.” (2 Corinthians 1:8-11)
Paul knew a great deal about trouble. Being a follower of Christ doesn’t exempt a person from pressure, stress, and depression. Paul’s problems drove him to ‘despair of life itself.’ Paul was helplessly awaiting death, a sentence of death – no escape, no exit. It was more than he could handle.
Sometimes people say “God will never give you more than you can handle.” But I think that can be misleading. Life often gives us more than we can handle. At times life overwhelms us and we don’t know what to do. We are out of options. That is when we should turn to God who will “comfort” us. He will do more than just pat us on the head and make us feel good. He will strengthen us to endure it. He will hold us up under the pressure. With God we can handle anything.
For the Apostle Paul, God came through in resurrection power. No one is sure what particular problems Paul refers to in this passage, but he felt like it was the end. But God had other plans. Similar to the resurrection of Jesus, the “death sentence” of Paul ended in resurrection. God still has resurrection power and can turn any hopeless situation to new life. God continues to delivers from every impossible circumstance. The sequence is: Suffering, then Death, then Resurrection. Christ’s call to take up the cross is nothing less than to embrace this cycle. Nothing that has not died will be resurrected. Death sets in motion the unstoppable process of resurrection. That is why Paul could boast in his struggles and find joy in tribulation. His suffering would bring new life.
Paul’s sufferings resulted in more prayers for him from the Corinthians and others. Those prayers brought greater power, more results, and more praise to God. Suffering solicits the prayers of God’s people. We should pray for others going through trouble just like we would want them to pray for us in trouble.
The key to Paul’s effectiveness was formed by the things he suffered. Suffering keeps us from trusting in ourselves and encourages us to trust in God. Paul gave up and surrendered to God. Suffering leaves us with nowhere to turn but to the only One who can help. Abraham Lincoln said, “I have often been driven to my knees in prayer because I had nowhere else to go.”
If you are going through some troubles today, please trust in God. Though you might not ‘feel’ His presence, the Bible encourages us that “though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil for thou (God) art with me” Psalm 23:4). God is with you in the darkest day to walk with you into the light.